CLEMSON — The No. 3 Clemson Tigers (11-0, 8-0 ACC) wrapped up a perfect home slate of games and a perfect ACC season, as they took care of a pesky Wake Forest Demon Deacon team on Senior Day by a final score of 52-3 Saturday at Death Valley.
The Demon Deacons entered the contest averaging 35.7 points per game and more than 487 yards of offense, but were held to season-lows of three points and 106 yards of offense by the Tiger defense.
The Tigers wasted little time imposing their will on an injury-riddled Demon Deacon team. After a 52-yard punt return by Amari Rodgers gave the Tigers the ball at the Wake Forest 28-yard line, Clemson needed only two plays before Trevor Lawrence found Tee Higgins for the first touchdown of the game.
The Tigers were back on offense one play later, after senior safety Tanner Muse intercepted Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman's first pass of the game. Four plays later, the Tigers found the end zone again, as Travis Etienne's 14-yard touchdown run capped the drive that needed only 1:39 and gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
After back-to-back punts by the two teams, the Demon Deacons capitalized on the first Clemson miscue.
Will Spiers dropped the snap on his first punt of the day and kicked the ball to the Clemson 28-yard line, where the ball was recovered by Muse. The Demon Deacons moved the ball to the Tigers' 12-yard line, but were forced to attempt a 30-yard field goal that cut the lead to 14-3.
The three points were all the Tiger defense allowed in the first half, but they were not finished adding to their lead.
Following B.T. Potter's field goal, the Tigers added 14 points to their lead after Lawrence found Higgins for the second and third times. The second touchdown was a 14-yard strike that capped a six-play, 75-yard drive.
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The third touchdown came after the Tigers' second interception of the day, this one by A.J. Terrell, gave the Tigers the ball at the Wake Forest 30-yard line. Lawrence needed only one play to extend the lead to 31-3, as he found Higgins for a 30-yard touchdown.
On the opening drive of the second half, Lawrence tied his career-high for touchdown passes in a game. His fourth touchdown pass found true freshman Frank Ladson Jr. in the back of the end zone for 10-yard score that capped a nine-play, 60-yard drive and extended the lead to 38-3.
Following Wake Forest's sixth punt of the day, the Tigers found the end zone. On second-and-10 from their own 36, Lawrence found backup running back Lyn-J Dixon for a 55-yard pass that moved the ball to the Wake Forest 9-yard line. Dixon finished off the drive one-play later, as his touchdown run pushed the Tiger lead to 45-3.
Backup quarterback Chase Brice entered the game on the Tigers' next series and turned the ball over on his first drive of the game, as his pass was intercepted by Wake Forest. However on fourth-and-2, the Tiger defense held the Demon Deacons, and gave Brice another opportunity — which he did not mess up.
On the ensuing drive, Brice completed three of his four attempts, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Ngata that ended the scoring, and gave the Tigers a 52-3 lead.
- Clemson opened a season 11-0 for the fifth time in program history, joining 11-0 starts in 1948, 1981, 2015 and 2018.
- Clemson won the first 11 games of a season for the third time under Head Coach Dabo Swinney (2015 and 2018). Swinney is already the first coach in Clemson history to coach the school to have multiple 11-0 starts, as legendary coaches Frank Howard and Danny Ford only accomplished the feat once each, in 1948 and 1981, respectively.
- The 2019 Tigers won an 11th game to tie the 1948, 1978, 2012 and 2013 squads for the sixth-most wins in a season in school history.
- Clemson won its 26th consecutive game, dating to the start of the 2018 season, to extend the longest winning streak in school history and second longest winning streak in ACC history
The Tigers take next week off before traveling to Columbia Nov. 30 to take on in-state rival South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium to close out the regular season.
Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io